MISHAWAKA – Super Mario 64 is a stone-cold classic of a game that, unfortunately, handles like a stone, too.
I know I was the one clamoring to play this game, especially considering its legendary status in gaming history as possibly the greatest 3D platformer of all time. I know that it was made in an era where Nintendo was on the bleeding edge of well-designed, re-playable and accessible games. However, I also know that it was made in a time where ergonomics apparently had not been invented. To be fair, the controls of the game are my only real gripe. Sadly, for Super Mario 64, it does not have much else going for it.
What is important to bear in mind is that I am criticizing, specifically, the Super Mario 3D All-Stars rendition of 64. I recognize that any minor gripes I have about the game can easily be chalked up to the time’s inadequate development technology. However, considering this is a port, and that Nintendo upped the quality of the game and almost nothing else, I am essentially forming my complaints as a question of “really, Nintendo, you could not have taken five minutes out of your day to tweak this a little?”
I am going to get the easy one out of the way first, because it is not debatable outside of the fact that “it is a really old game.” The camera is super annoying because it has a finite number of orientations. I get it, Nintendo, it was a big game with not much space on the cartridge, so you could not waste precious processing power by letting the player look anywhere at any time. However, in a game that demands precision movement and full spatial awareness, restricting my camera angle to either a satellite view, a slow dolly shot or a wonderful closeup of the back of Mario’s head with barely 30% of the screen unoccupied by a pixelated plumber, is not at all conducive to gameplay.
Mario either controls like a dead tortoise, or a dead tortoise going down a waterslide; his momentum in this game is incredibly inconsistent. Consider me spoiled from the likes of Super Mario Odyssey, where every aspect of movement is enjoyable, fluid and precise, but considering Mario has to think about whether or not he is going to move forward for a good second or two when I flick the control stick up, I believe I am justified in my complaint.
Worse still, if I feel like I do not want to launch myself full pelt off a cliff, I must stop a good ten feet back to give Mario’s evidently frictionless footwear enough stopping time. In his defense, he is not wearing the best shoes for all the running and jumping he does: those loafers have no kind of arch support. Every movement just feels so laborious; I feel like I am urging an elderly man on a hoverboard along a school’s playground, as opposed to controlling the world’s most athletic septic worker on his quest to jump on a spiky turtle’s head three times.
I do not think Super Mario 64 is a bad game, and I do know that there is a variety of levels that make use of the clunky movement without the game becoming unplayable. However, I do think that it is nowhere near as airtight in its fundamental mechanics as I was expecting due to all the praise. To put it in perspective, this is coming from someone who has made his way through only the first world, but after accidentally flinging myself off one too many cliffs, I know that the rest of the time I have with this game will be spent looking forward to the beautiful second I boot up Super Mario Sunshine.